Way back in the 1980’s, it was popular for members of the conservative movement to claim that the Left had run out of ideas. It was true to the extent that the Left had run out of policy ideas, having used them up in the preceding four decades. Conservatives were brimming with ideas on how to fix those policies. The big talk of rolling them back was really just a politically astute way of making reform look radical. The Right was always about fixing what the Left had broken.
The truth is though, those old progressive ideas from the early part of the century had run their course, but a new set of ideas were percolating in the academy. What we think of today as cultural Marxism and “wokeness” was coming together in the flophouses and brothels of left-wing politics. After the Cold War ended, these ideas started to take over the Left until we reached the present crisis. This crisis, however, seems to be the end of the line for radical thinking.
You see it with the obsession with Trump. Stable minded people with an agenda, even a nutty agenda, would have erased their old foe from the history books after dispatching him in the 2020 election. Instead, they cannot stop thinking about him and the army of imaginary bogeymen they think he leads. The Democrats have now hatched a plot to charge him with sedition so he cannot run for office in 2024. In reality, it is just a way to keep him alive as an adversary.
To normal people, this looks like madness. The truth is, Trump is old news and by the time 2024 rolls around he will probably not be a lock to win the nomination. This Ann Coulter column is a good indication that many of the people who supported Trump in 2016 are ready for someone new. Coulter’s judgement on these things is not always the best, she was a fan of Mitt Romney, but she speaks for Populist Inc. They are ready to move on and the Democrats would be wise to let them.
That said, Trump is a master marketer and he could very well retool his act as a revenge tour in 2024. Given the state of things right now and the chaos that looms on the horizon, the public could be ready to burn it all down. The GOP will surely win both house this fall then set about finking on their voters. The next presidential election could be a battle to win over factions in a purple-faced rage at the politicians. In that environment, Trump could look like the sober choice.
Still, the Left won the revolution and should be busy enjoying the fruits of victory but instead they long to return to the battle. The reason is the ideology that fueled the revolution is turning out to be nothing but clever words with no truth content. There is no end of history, no promised land of equality. Rather than being a strength, diversity has turned out to be a clever marketing scheme by corporate communists who live like white nationalist while lecturing everyone about race.
What the Left has quickly become is a glaring example of negative identity. They are not for anything that exists. Instead, they are a laundry list of things they oppose, with the claim that these things stand in the way of paradise. The fact that many of the things they rage against do not, in fact, exist, makes the agony all the more severe. It turns out that bellowing about white supremacy, something that does not exist, is not as fulfilling as screaming in the face of someone wearing a red hat.
In the movie Conspiracy about the 1942 Wannsee Conference, one of the actors tells another a story about a man who hated his father and loved his mother. When his mother died, he did not weep at her grave. When his father died, he was inconsolable, crying like a baby. The lesson of the story was that the man had defined his life by his hatred of his father. When his father was gone, he lost that which gave meaning and purpose to his life. That was why he was crying.
The American Left and their political party are now that man weeping at the grave of Donald Trump’s presidential career. This is, in part, why they cannot let go of the Covid madness, despite their party’s efforts. The mask is a reminder of better times when they had a reason to get up every morning. It is why their party is putting on the insurrection show for them. It is a bit of nostalgia for better times. It is why they hope to reanimate the Trump movement with an indictment.
That is the trouble with negative identity. A political movement organized around it can only end in sorrow. If it wins, it loses the reason to exist. If it fails, it runs the risk of retribution from the people it assaulted and it runs the risk of internal dissention over not having defeated the enemy. Negative identity becomes a self-made Alamo, a desperate last stand by people afraid of the future. It is why these movements attract so many weirdos and degenerates.
Unlike in the 1980’s, the sputtering of the prevailing radicalism is unlikely to give way to a new radicalism, at least not from the Left. Cultural Marxism was a reaction to the failing of economic Marxism. There is no next step in the underlying theory of history that animated both ideologies. This really is the end of the road for the theoretical framework that gave birth to Utopian radicalism. What comes next will probably be outside the old model of Left and Right.
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